HOME TO VIVID STREET ART, a bounty of sculptures and paintings by Botero, Colombia’s only public transit system (including cable cars) and a burgeoning dining scene, Medellín transformed from Pablo Escobar’s former hangout to one of the safest and most vibrant destinations in South America. It doesn’t hurt that this city of 4 million people sits in a valley surrounded by mountains at an altitude close to a mile high, offering sublime temperatures around 70–80 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. This lends itself well to outdoor cafés and bars, the ideal places to start your night out on the town.
Most of the action centers around the more upscale Poblado neighborhood, where the sinuous streets twist up and down the hillside. Order a mojito at one of the tables under the large thatched hut of Fogón de Piedra, the poolside restaurant at the InterContinental Medellin, and glance up at the bowl of peaks surrounding you. Or head over to the 18th floor of The Charlee Hotel and its rooftop bar for wonderful vistas of the city as the sun sets.
When hunger beckons, take a quick taxi to OCI.Mde. Chef and owner Laura Londoño honed her craft alongside legendary chef Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France, before making stops in Sydney and Southeast Asia. The result of her education is a tantalizing mix of South American and Asian spices in a festive, informal atmosphere. The tangy tuna tartare, small cubes of freshly cut fish dipped in lime and a truffle dressing, is her version of ceviche, while the tender beef short ribs, braised for 12 hours in a soy-based cashew sauce, practically falls off the bone. If you still have room, finish with a cookie taco, filled to the brim with chocolate ice cream, hazelnut cake and meringue.
Work off dinner by swaying your hips at one of the many live salsa music venues in Medellín like Son Havana or Tibiri. Colombians love to dance into the wee hours of the morning; and when the band starts to play, any open space becomes a dance floor, even between tables. If you want to boogie around a disco ball, head to Viva, a favorite of the LGBTQ+ crowd, along with Bar Chiquita. Or simply grab a caipirinha with the beautiful people of Burdo in the charming Via Primavera zone of Poblado. Just don’t go to bed early, especially when the nights are this warm.
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